Saudi Ara­bia’s LGBTQ+ abuses

The News (New Glasgow) - - OPINION - Ger­ard Veld­hoven

The on­go­ing al­ter­ca­tions be­tween the Cana­dian and Saudi govern­ments are at an all-time high. Our For­eign Af­fairs min­is­ter, Chrys­tia Free­land, has right­fully crit­i­cized Saudi Ara­bia for its hu­man rights abuses.

Women’s rights are at the cen­tre of this fight, and both Justin Trudeau and Ms. Free­land have in­di­cated they will keep up the pres­sure for change. This is a de­cided switch for our country as the pre­vi­ous prime min­is­ter, Stephen Harper, was a close friend of this Arab na­tion. He called the king a close ally of Canada and com­pletely ig­nored the crimes against hu­man­ity that have been part of Saudi Ara­bia for years. The present govern­ment must be con­grat­u­lated for not clos­ing eyes to the abuses.

Women’s rights are at the fore­front of our govern­ment’s ob­jec­tion, but one must em­pha­size that abuses of all sorts are dom­i­nant in that na­tion. The count­less hu­man rights abuses are hor­rific and the fu­ture looks rather dim. The fact women were given the “right” to drive a car does not in­di­cate that we will see rev­o­lu­tion­ary changes in at­ti­tudes, or in­deed the laws.

The LGBTQ+ cit­i­zens are also deemed as sec­ond-class be­ings and the fol­low­ing are some of the in­hu­mane treat­ments that ex­ist in Saudi Ara­bia. Both male and fe­male same-sex sex­ual ac­tiv­ity is il­le­gal. Be­ing gay or trans­gen­der are viewed as im­moral and in­de­cent ac­tiv­i­ties, and the law pun­ishes acts of “ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity” or “cross dress­ing” with pun­ish­ments rang­ing from fines, pub­lic flog­gings, life in prison, tor­ture and even death.

Saudi Ara­bia has the dis­tinc­tion as be­ing the very worst in hu­man rights abuses. It is a liv­ing hell for gays, if found out. In 2002, three men were be­headed for “com­mit­ting ho­mo­sex­ual acts.” Many were ar­rested be­tween 2005 and 2006 for at­tend­ing a gay wed­ding. If one chooses to come out as gay, fam­i­lies will in all like­li­hood dis­own them. A 15-year-old boy who told his par­ents he was gay was kicked out of the house and his fam­ily threat­ened to kill him, telling him could never re­turn home. The boy, named Roshan, com­mit­ted sui­cide eight days later. If found out, a ston­ing to death may be the pun­ish­ment.

Trade agree­ments some­time will in­ter­fere with the call for hu­man rights, as is the case in the United States. When Don­ald Trump paid a visit to Saudi Ara­bia, he praised the king and the govern­ment for show­ing huge sup­port for the U.S. Trump, with a huge grin, and seem­ingly proud of the fact that sup­port was no doubt for him per­son­ally, signed away any hope to crit­i­cize the country’s hu­man abuses. Of course, we are re­minded of the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, as con­stant news sto­ries tell us of of­fi­cials who refuse to sup­port LGBTQ+ equal rights. It is a trav­esty and sends a strong mes­sage that this ad­min­is­tra­tion is on the side of bla­tant dis­crim­i­na­tion.

Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo, who trav­els around the world, will not ad­dress the is­sue. Vi­cePres­i­dent Pence, also a right-wing re­li­gious fig­ure, has on many oc­ca­sions spo­ken against LGBTQ+ equal­ity, as has his col­league, At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions.

Canada also has its right wingers such as Al­berta op­po­si­tion leader Ja­son Ken­ney and On­tario Premier Doug Ford. Ku­dos to our prime min­is­ter, Free­land and other MPs in our Par­lia­ment for stand­ing firm against hu­man rights abuses. We have mem­bers of the leg­is­la­tures in our prov­inces who are not afraid to speak up for equal rights. A prime ex­am­ple is Nova Sco­tia PC MLA and in­terim op­po­si­tion leader Karla Mac­Far­lane, who will be in­tro­duc­ing a bill to ban gay con­ver­sion ther­apy.

The King­dom of Saudi Ara­bia must learn to re­spect hu­man rights, and if that means less or no trade, so be it!

Ger­ard Veld­hoven is a long­time ac­tivist for the les­bian, gay, bi­sex­ual and trans­gen­der com­mu­nity. His col­umn ap­pears Wed­nes­days in The News. Com­ments and in­for­ma­tion: lgbt­con­nec­tion­sgv@gmail.com.

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